California governor proposes dual-admissions pathway for community college students

by Jeremy

Dive Brief: 

  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom this week proposed guaranteed admission to the state’s four-year universities for confident community college graduates.
  • Starting in 2023, first-time, first-year community college students could select either a California State University or University of California campus to reserve spots for them.
  • Experts said the plan is meant to increase transfer rates to four-year schools, but California could run into capacity

Dive Insight:

Participating students will have access to campus services, such as counseling and the library, at the public university closest to them and their community college. Universities that don’t have room will establish additional admissions criteria, such as GPA requirements. To remain eligible for guaranteed admission, students must graduate with an associate degree or equivalent within two years.

The policy also asks CSU and UC schools to provide students with provisional financial aid letters indicating the aid package upon transferring. Tyler Wu, the California policy director at uAspire, a college affordability advocacy group, lauded that move. “A huge core issue of ours is to make sure that students are aware of their financial aid options as they go through that transfer journey,” Wu said.

Newsom partly bills the pitch to increase transfer rates from California’s community colleges to its four-year schools. According to a report from the Public Policy Institute of California last year, around one in four of the state’s students who say they want to transfer do so within six years.

Nationwide, 14% of students who started at a community college in the fall of 2013 earned a bachelor’s degree within six years, according to National Student Clearinghouse Research Center data.

California wouldn’t be the first state with a guaranteed admission program. Texas implemented a policy in 1998 that promises in-state applicants who graduate in the top 10% of their high school class admission to any of the state’s universities. The Top Ten Percent rule brought in more students from schools with high shares of underrepresented and low-income populations, a working paper found last year. Many states also guarantee that community college students who complete an associate degree can transfer their credits to a four-year university. More than 30 states have such policies, though the requirements vary, according to the Education Commission of the States.

California’s proposal, however, could put further strain on the state’s public colleges, said Nathan Daun-Barnett, a higher education professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo. California’s four-year institutions are expected to turn away roughly 144,000 qualified students each year by 2030, according to a 2019 report from the College Futures Foundation. I would think that Berkeley would have a tough time, UCLA would have a tough time,” Daun-Barnett said. “Even a couple of the others would have a tough time accommodating everybody who chooses that institution.”

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